SEQUIM — Dungeness Valley Creamery has shut down distribution of its raw milk and issued a voluntary recall of all raw milk products with a ‘Best By’ date of April 13 or earlier because of a new bacterium that has been connected to its milk.
At least five lab-positive campylobacteriosis cases have been identified in people who consumed Dungeness Valley Creamery raw milk, the state Department of Health announced Friday.
The dairy has had milk test positive for e coli in the past but this is the first indication of contamination with Campylobacter, which can cause severe illness, said co-owner Ryan McCarthey during an interview Saturday.
“We want to advise everyone to stop drinking it. Throw it away,” he said, adding that because it is unknown when the contamination started, consumers and distributors must get rid of all of the dairy’s raw milk products they might have on hand, including anything frozen.
“We are doing a complete shutdown and reset of the farm,” McCarthey said.
He and his wife, Sarah McCarthey, and the dairy’s crew have conducted extensive testing and are working with both the state Department of Agriculture and independent labs to find the potential source of contamination.
As of Friday, one out of 13 recent samples taken by the Department of Agriculture detected the presence of Campylobacter in a production batch bearing the expiration date of April 6, he said.
“We’re focused on finding the source of the problem,” he said. “We don’t want people worrying ‘is it going to be back.’ ”
Until the McCartheys understand the source, the dairy will not offer any raw milk products.
They hope to be able to resume distribution by April 12, if they can fix the problem.
“We’re committed to not distributing until then, Ryan said, even if the state clears the dairy earlier.
“We don’t want to rush it in any way,” he said.
Because it is a new infectious agent for the farm, it will be a “whole new learning curve as to how to resolve the way it lives in the environment,” he added.
He figured the hiatus could cost the dairy more than $30,000 in lost sales.
The raw milk was purchased in Clallam, Skagit, Kitsap and Clark counties, according to the state Department of Health. It was sold in the on-farm store, outside retail stores and drop-off locations.
Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include fever, diarrhea (often bloody), nausea, vomiting, malaise and abdominal pain. Most people with Campylobacter infection recover on their own, but some need antibiotic treatment, the state said.
In severe cases, complications may include reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system are at greatest risk for severe illness, the state said.
Ryan McCarthey said that he had not heard of any hospitalizations due to the infection.